New York 500 Club: Babe Ruth
As Alex Rodriguez chases 600 home runs -- and beyond -- ESPNNewYork.com looks back at the seven sluggers in the 500 Home Run Club most associated with the Big Apple, either because they played their prime years with New York teams or hit No. 500 in a local uniform.
Babe Ruth is a former Major League Baseball player, widely considered to be the greatest baseball player of all-time, starting his career as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. In a controversial deal with the New York Yankees, Ruth was sold for $100,00 in what would later be known as "The Curse of the Bambino." With the Yankees, Ruth moved to the outfield and transformed into one of the greatest hitters of all-time. He was the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season Ruth ended his career with a .342 batting average and 714 home runs, which was a record until Hank Aaron surpassed him in 1974. Ruth was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
George Herman Ruth Jr. was born on Feb. 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Md., to Kate Schamberger-Ruth and George Herman Ruth, Sr.. Only two of their eight children survived past infancy; Ruth, and his sister, Mamie. At age seven, Ruth was sent to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage. Ruth spent 12 years at the school, rarely seeing his family. It was at St. Mary's where Ruth started playing baseball. He played a variety of positions but played catcher mostly until the age of 15. Ruth started pitching and switched between pitcher and catcher on the St. Mary's varsity baseball team.
During a game in 1913 between St. Mary's and Mount St. Mary's University, Ruth's pitching skills caught the attention of Washington Senators pitcher Joe Engel. Engel told minor league owner Jack Dunn of the Baltimore Orioles and he signed Ruth to a contract on Feb. 14, 1914. Ruth earned the nickname of "Babe," after teammates referred to him as Jack Dunn's newest babe. The nickname stuck with Ruth for the rest of his career.
On July 7, 1914, Ruth was nearly sold to the Philadelphia Athletics along with Ernie Shore and Ben Egan for $10,000. Athletics owner and manager Connie Mack refused to spend $10,000 on the trio. Ruth was eventually sold to the Boston Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox (1914-1919)
Babe Ruth made his major league debut on July 11, 1914 for the Boston Red Sox. Ruth appeared in five games during the 1914 season, pitching in four of them. On the mound, Ruth went 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and he went just 2-for-10 with two RBI at the plate. Ruth spent a majority of the season with the Providence Grays in the minor leagues.
Ruth landed a spot in the Red Sox pitching rotation during the 1915 season. In his first full season as a starter, Ruth went 18-18 with a 2.44 ERA in 28 starts. Ruth showed his first glimpse of power at the plate, slugging four home runs and driving in 21 runs. Ruth made his postseason debut in the 1915 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, grounding out in his only at-bat.
In 1916, Ruth led the American League in earned run average (1.75), games started (41) and shutouts (9). He went 23-12 including four victories over Washington Senators starter Walter Johnson. The Red Sox won their second-straight World Series championship in 1916. Ruth pitched a 14-inning complete game in Game 2 against the Brooklyn Robins.
Ruth had his best season as a pitcher in 1917, going 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA and 35 complete games. On June 23, 1917 against the Senators, Ruth threw a punch at an umpire after walking the leadoff hitter. He received a 10-game suspension for his actions.
In 1918, Ruth started to shift his playing time from the mound to the outfield. At the plate, Ruth led the league in home runs with 11 and batted .300 with 66 RBI. On the mound, Ruth started Game 1 of the 1918 World Series, throwing a 1-0 shutout over the Chicago Cubs. In Game 4, Ruth pitched eight innings, allowing just two earned runs and striking out six in a 3-2 victory. The Red Sox won the World Series in six games.
Ruth hit .322 with 29 home runs and 114 RBI in 1919, which turned out to be his final season with the Red Sox. The 29 home runs was a single-season record at the time. In his last season as a starting pitcher, Ruth went 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA.
Ruth wanted an increase in his salary following the 1919 season but Frazee refused to pay him and decided to trade his star player. Finding a team to make a deal was a problem as Frazee had only two options in the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. The White Sox offered the Red Sox "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and $60,000 for Ruth. The Yankees offered the Red Sox $100,000 in cash.
New York Yankees (1920-1934)
Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees on Dec. 26, 1919. Frazee received $25,000 up front along with three promissory notes of $25,000 each at six percent interest. Frazee also received a loan for $300,000 against the mortgage of Fenway Park as collateral.
The deal was eventually known as the "Curse of the Bambino," as the Red Sox wouldn't win another World Series title until 2004. It was claimed that Ruth was sold to the Yankees in order for Frazee to finance "No, No, Nanette" on Broadway. According to author Leigh Montville, who wrote "The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth," he discovered that "No, No, Nannette" was indeed financed by the sale of Ruth to the Yankees.
On the Yankees, Ruth completed his transition from a pitcher to an outfielder, pitching in just 36 games over the next 15 seasons in New York.
Ruth hit .376 with 54 home runs and 137 RBI in his first season with the Yankees in 1920. He nearly doubled his home run record he set the season before with the Red Sox. Only the Philadelphia Phillies hit more home runs as a team than Ruth.
Ruth led the Yankees to a first-place finish in the American League in 1921, hitting .378 with 59 home runs and 171 RBI. It was arguably one of the greatest seasons of Ruth's career, setting records in total bases (457), extra base hits (119) and times on base (379). Ruth broke Roger Connor's home run record of 138 on July 18, 1921 against the Detroit Tigers. In the 1921 World Series, the Yankees won the first two games before Ruth injured his elbow in Game 2. Doctors advised Ruth not to play the rest of the series. Ignoring doctor's orders, Ruth started and played the next three games in the World Series before coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter in Game 8. Ruth hit .313 with one home run and four RBI in the series but the Yankees lost to the Giants in eight games.
Baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended Ruth for the first six weeks of the 1922 season after he participated in a barnstorming tour following the World Series. Ruth made his season debut on May 20, 1922 as the captain of the Yankees. Just five days later, Ruth was stripped of his captaincy after he was ejected from a game for throwing dirt on an umpire and confronting a fan in the stands. Despite missing more than 40 games, Ruth still managed to hit 35 home runs with 99 RBI. The Yankees faced the Giants again in the World Series but lost in five games partly because of Ruth's .118 average.
1923 was the first season at Yankee Stadium after moving from the Polo Grounds. Nicknamed "The House That Ruth Built," Ruth hit the first-ever home run at Yankee Stadium on Apr. 18, 1923 against the Red Sox. Thanks to a career-high .393 batting average, 41 home runs and 131 RBI, Ruth won the only American League Most Valuable Player award in his career. The Yankees finally knocked off the Giants in the 1923 World Series for their first World Series in franchise history. Ruth hit three home runs in the six-game series.
Ruth finished eight RBI short of winning the AL Triple Crown in 1924, leading the league with a .378 average and 46 home runs. When he wasn't busy hitting home runs, Ruth enlisted for three years in the 104th field artillery of the National Guard of New York.
Ruth's career hit a low during the 1925 season. He was having problems at home with his marriage and spent the offseason eating and partying. When he arrived to Spring Training, Ruth was sick and out of shape. During a road trip in Asheville, N.C., Ruth collapsed. It was rumored that he had the flu and the headline claimed Ruth overindulged on soda and hot dogs. Ruth's illness was dubbed "The Bellyache Heard 'Round the World." Ruth underwent an operation for an "intestinal abscess" and he missed the first part of the season while he recovered. Ruth played in only 98 games, hitting .290 with 25 home runs and 66 RBI as the Yankees finished in next-to-last place.
A healthy Ruth bounced back in 1926, hitting .372 with 47 home runs and 146 RBI. In the 1926 World Series, Ruth slugged three home runs in Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Ruth promised Johnny Sylvester, an 11-year-old hospitalized after a horseback riding accident, that he would hit a home run for him in Game 4. Sylvester's condition improved after Ruth's three home runs. With the Yankees trailing 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, Ruth was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Ruth set a career high and major league record 60 home runs in 1927. Seventeen of his 60 home runs came in the month of September. The record stood until Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. Ruth was part of one of the greatest lineups in baseball history along with Earle Combs, Mark Koeing, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. The Yankees went 110-44 in the regular season and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.
Ruth followed up his 60-homer season with 54 home runs in 1928. He had a chance of breaking the record he set the season before but Ruth battled an ankle injury towards the end of the season. In the 1928 World Series, Ruth hit .625 (10-for-16) with three home runs (all three in Game 4) as the Yankees swept the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ruth hit .345 with 46 home runs and 154 RBI in 1929. Yankees manager Miller Huggins died on Sept. 25, 1929 of erysipelas. Ruth had interest in managing the Yankees but former Chicago Cubs manager Joe McCarthy was hired instead. Ruth made his final postseason appearance in 1932 with the Yankees. New York went 107-47 in the regular season under McCarthy and swept the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Ruth hit .333 with two home runs and six RBI. One of Ruth's two home runs was in Game 3, which was known as Babe Ruth's called shot. Ruth made a gesture towards center field and he hit a home run on a 2-2 pitch off Cubs pitcher Charlie Root. The home run was Ruth's last World Series hit. He finished with a lifetime World Series average of .326 with 15 home runs and 33 RBI in 41 games. Major League Baseball honored Ruth's World Series success in 1949 with the Babe Ruth Award for the player with the best World Series performance.
Ruth was elected to the first All-Star game in 1933, hitting .301 with 34 home runs and 103 RBI on the season. In the 1933 All-Star Game, Ruth hit the first home run in the game's history at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The former pitcher made his final appearance on the mound during the 1933 season, pitching a complete-game victory against the Boston Red Sox and improving his record to 5-0 as a pitcher for the Yankees.
Ruth's final season with the Yankees came in 1934, hitting .288 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI. Ruth wanted to manage the Yankees but McCarthy was entrenched with the manager's job. He was offered the managerial position with the Newark Bears, the Yankee's top minor-league affiliate, but Ruth turned the offer down.
Boston Braves (1935)
Babe Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves on Feb. 26, 1935. Along with playing, Ruth would be the Braves' vice president and assistant manager. However, Ruth's skills declined sharply. His last glimpse of greatness occurred on May 25, 1935 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ruth went 4-for-4 with three home runs and six RBI. On May 30, 1935, Ruth played in his final game, striking out in his only at-bat before leaving with a knee injury. On June 2, 1935, Ruth announced his retirement
Ruth retired with 714 career home runs, which was the most in baseball until Hank Aaron broke his record on April 8, 1974.
Babe Ruth was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. Ruth was the first base coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938 but he lasted only one season before quitting.
Ruth appeared in nearly a dozen movies during the silent film era. His acting debut came in 1920 in "Headin' Home." Ruth also appeared in "Speedy," "Perfect Control," and "Over The Fence." His final role
Ruth was also a mainstay on radio programs. He appeared on "The Adventures of Babe Ruth," produced by the Blue Network in 1934. It was a series of 15-minute programs that featured Ruth telling fully dramatized episodes from his career. Ruth was also featured on "Here's Bath Ruth," the comedy-drama "Alibi Ike," and "Baseball Quiz."
Ruth became ill in 1946 after doctors discovered he had a malignant tumor in his neck. While in the hospital, Ruth lost 80 pounds from the radiation therapy. With Ruth still ailing, he was treated with a new medicine called teropterin. Teropterin eventually led to the creation of methorexate, which is used to treat cancer. It wasn't until after Ruth's death that it was discovered he was suffering from nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare tumor that's located in the back of the nose. Ruth's health continued to decline in 1948. The Yankees held a "Babe Ruth Day" on April 27, 1947. Ruth spoke in front of 60,000 fans. His final appearance at Yankee Stadium came on June 13, 1948 for the 25th anniversary celebration of the ballpark. On Aug. 16, 1958, Ruth passed away from pneumonia. Over 100,000 fans came out to Yankee Stadium to pay their final respects as Ruth's casket was on display. Ruth was buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, N.Y.
Babe Ruth League
Formally the Little Bigger League, the Babe Ruth League was founded in 1951 as a youth baseball program. The name was changed to the Babe Ruth League in 1954 after Ruth's widow, Claire Ruth, gave the organization permission. The league serves over 1 million kids from ages 4-18 across the United States.
Baby Ruth Controversy
The Curtiss Candy Company created the "Baby Ruth" was originally called "Kandy Kate." The Curtiss Candy Company changed the name in 1921 to "Baby Ruth" and claimed it was named after Ruth Cleveland, the daughter of President Glover Cleveland. Ruth Cleveland had passed away 17 years prior to the name change. It was also around the same time when Babe Ruth was emerging as a baseball superstar. The Curtiss Candy Company capitalized from Ruth's success without having to pay the slugger royalties, an early example of ambush sports marketing.
Babe Ruth married Helen Woodford on Oct. 17, 1914. Babe and Helen adopted a baby girl named Dorothy in 1921. In a book titled, "My Dad, The Babe," Dorothy claimed she was Ruth's biological child with a woman named Juanita Jennings. Helen passed away in 1929 from a house fire in Watertown, Mass. Ruth remarried later that year to model Claire Merritt Hodgson. Ruth adopted Julia Hodgson, the daughter of his wife, Claire.
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